What is the best bogus excuse you’ve heard? We’ve all invited someone we care about to something we think they will enjoy only to be rejected. My favorite is the double excuse like “Sorry, I can’t go to lunch. I am busy at work that week, and think I might be getting a haircut…let’s touch base in a few more weeks.”
Too Easily Distracted
Of course, we all have to say “no” everyday. Yet, we often choose the wrong option. Can you think of a time when you rejected an invitation only to discover it was something you should have accepted? The busyness of life frequently distracts us from what is most important; so we must have a way of prioritizing what is important. Would you choose a project at work over the chance to dine with a king? What about a drive in your new car over an invitation to a banquet feast full of everlasting joy?
While we might not intentionally miss out on what is best, it is completely possible to unintentionally put off what is most important. We get so distracted by the little things of this world that we never attend to the weightier matters of life. Scott Hubbard of Desiring God recently wrote, “We cultivate hobbies, follow celebrities, and read the news without knowing why we exist. We stumble through an unthinkably vast cosmos, circled round by unthinkably intricate wonders, too distracted to ask, “Who made this?” We develop firm opinions about politics, and care not whether souls live forever, and where. We look often into our mirrors and seldom into our deep and fallen hearts. A strange disorder indeed.”
Humans have been distracted since the creation of the world. The people in Jesus’ day had distractions too. Jesus told parables about the kingdom of God so that those He loves would understand how God works, what is most important in life, and the role He is inviting us to play.
The truth of Jesus’ parables still applies to us today.
Jesus was eating with and teaching a group of spiritually distracted leaders of His day about the kingdom of God when He told them this parable:
A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' “Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' “Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.' “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' “'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'“Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'” - Luke 14:16-24
The Invitation Matters
This parable is meant to remind the listener / hearer that God, “the certain man” is inviting people to join the kingdom ministry of Jesus in this life and the life to come, “banquet.” Accepting this invitation represents joining in the life, work, and glory of Jesus forever.
The last minute invitation to join the banquet would not have been a surprise. In Jesus’ day, it was customary to send two invitations: the first invitation was months in advance and the second invitation was the day of the event. In other words, the Jewish leaders already reserved a spot at the banquet months ago. This first invitation represents those who grew up in the Jewish faith. This second invitation represents the call to come now, that the time kingdom is at hand.
Excuses Reveal The Heart
Those listening would have understood how long the Jews had waited to meet the bridegroom and join the banquet — for their messiah to come, liberate them from their sin, and dine with Him in eternity. Rejecting the banquet after initially accepting a reservation is outrageous, but the reasons they give are utterly absurd. Who would decline an invitation to a royal banquet to gaze upon a field, examine a few oxen, or merely shoot the breeze with their new husband or wife? This parable shows how these people, who rejected the invitation, have prioritized the mundane business of everyday life and work ahead of the God they claimed to love.
Now, before we are too hard on the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, are people of our day any different? How often do we put our work, new purchases, and even our marriages above God? God calls us to live an integrated life where our work, possessions, and families all join God in the business of His kingdom. Yet, we tend to separate parts of our life and not put them under God’s reign.
We are caught up in the temporary things of life while God is calling us to join him, right now, in this life and for eternity.
“Eighty years may seem like a long time to distract yourself from the most fundamental questions of life and death. But with hearts like ours, in a world like ours, it is not too long. Make a career. Raise a family. Build wealth. Plan vacations. Get promoted. Watch movies. Collect sports cards. Read the news. Play golf. Resist uncomfortable questions. We hang a curtain over the cliff’s edge that keeps us from seeing the abyss. But not from rushing into it.” - Scott Hubbard, Holy Fools.
Of course, we can all relate on one level or another. Not one of us escapes daily distraction — especially me. But, to reject the double invitation takes intentionality — a commitment to the temporary things of life over and above the eternal purposes and plans of God.
Those Who Accept
The creator of all things, the “owner of the house” becomes indignant and tells the servant to go get others — the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. Notably, this statement from Jesus fulfilled a prophecy given to Isaiah, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1). Of course they accept. Imagine the unspeakable joy experienced by those who had never seen an endless supply of food, drink, and merriment. Imagine the astonishing satisfaction and fulfillment of joining the King.
The owner, God, has a big table in a big house and wants to fill His kingdom. God instructs His servant to invite those who will most appreciate the food — the saving grace of Jesus. This demonstrates that the kingdom of heaven is not an exclusive club, it’s a free banquet for those who are hungry — those who are seeking a savior and desire to dine with the Savior King, both now and forever. The Gospel of John tells us, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” - John 1:11–12.
Invited to Invite
Now, for those of us who believe, we get to join the King in His work and invite more guests to the eternal banquet. Yes, invite your friends, your family members, your coworkers, but remember most of all to invite people who you know are poor, hopeless, blind, sick, lame and looking for an answer to life. Introduce them to Jesus and His abundant life, the banquet that never ends. This is how we complete our joy — we go and do likewise!